High-grade optical polydimethylsiloxane for microfluidic applications

Abstract

Commercially available polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) elastomers, such as Sylgard 184® are widely used in soft lithography and for microfluidic applications. These PDMS elastomers contain fillers to enhance their mechanical stability. The reinforcing fillers, often sub-micrometer small SiO2 particles, tend to aggregate, swell with water, and thereby become cognoscible in a way that can strongly interfere with the visualization of micro-scale events taking place next to PDMS structures. As PDMS microfluidics are often used for studying cells and micro-/nanoparticles and for creating/handling nanodroplets, it has become highly desirable to employ a PDMS having high optical quality and that allows microscopy observation without artifacts. Here, we present a PDMS formulation that is free of fillers and has sufficiently low viscosity to perform a filtration step of the mixed prepolymers before curing. By molding a bi-layer microfluidic network (MFN), composed of a thin filler-free PDMS layer and a thicker Sylgard 184® backing layer, PDMS MFNs featuring both high optical quality and mechanical stability, can be fabricated.

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Acknowledgements

We thank R. Stutz for his help with the fabrication of the Si lids and molds for the PDMS microfluidics, L. Gervais for discussions, Neuro-Zone s.r.l. for a generous gift of microglia, and our colleagues W. Riess, M. Despont as well as Viola Vogel (ETHZ) for their continuous support.

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Correspondence to Emmanuel Delamarche.

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Lovchik, R.D., Wolf, H. & Delamarche, E. High-grade optical polydimethylsiloxane for microfluidic applications. Biomed Microdevices 13, 1027–1032 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10544-011-9572-0

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Keywords

  • Poly(dimethyl)siloxane
  • PDMS
  • Microfluidics
  • Filler particles